Just one in four care home workers who fear they have coronavirus have been tested for the bug, new figures reveal
- Managers say staff face four-hour round trips to centres only accessible by car
- Some are self-isolating and unable to return to the front line of the epidemic
- MPs & trade unions branded low levels of testing in the care sector ‘appalling’
- Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19
Only one in four care home workers who fear they have coronavirus have been tested, figures show.
Managers say their staff face four-hour round trips to centres which are only accessible by car when many do not drive.
Some are stuck self-isolating and unable to return to the front line where they are desperately needed.
Only one in four care home workers who fear they have coronavirus have been tested, figures show. Pictured above, an NHS worker goes through the testing procedure at the coronavirus testing centre for NHS staff and registered care workers at the AJ Bell Stadium
It comes as the capacity for tens of thousands of tests continues to be wasted each day with just half of the possible 41,398 being used.
There are just seven days left before the deadline for Health Secretary Matt Hancock’s promise of 100,000 coronavirus tests a day.
But only 22,814 were carried out on Tuesday across England, Wales and Scotland.
MPs and trade union bosses last night branded the low levels of testing in the care sector ‘appalling’.
Last week Mr Hancock said everyone working in social care who needed to be checked would be able to do so immediately.
But those who are showing symptoms of Covid-19 must be referred by their employer then travel to one of the Government’s 27 drive-through centres. Some face round trips of more than 200 miles.
They have also been told they are not allowed to take public transport or taxis, leaving those without a car unable to get there.
Data collected by the National Care Forum, which represents nonprofit providers, suggests just 25 per cent of care home staff needing tests have had them.
The NCF collected data from 21 members which together employ almost 16,000 staff.
Four-hour trip to get tested
Care home boss Alice Ushamba
Care home boss Alice Ushamba had to tell staff they would need to make a four-hour round trip to get tested.
Mrs Ushamba, pictured, who runs Hants Healthcare in the New Forest, said her workers were desperate for checks.
But when she finally received a letter last week, the nearest test centre was two hours away in Gatwick, West Sussex.
Mrs Ushamba, 35, said: ‘Most of my staff get around on foot and can’t afford a car. It’s impractical.’ On Tuesday she was told workers could now be tested in Portsmouth – but it is still an hour’s drive.
Of the 632 residential care staff needing tests only 164 had them, and just 19 of the 281 home carers.
The Care Quality Commission said on Monday it had so far booked 18,473 appointments for the staff – just one per cent of the 1.5million people who work in the sector.
But it could not clarify how many tests had taken place.
Care company Barchester, which runs more than 200 homes, said it had referred ‘several hundred’ members of staff to centres and was working with the Government and CQC to provide home kits to workers who cannot get to test centres.
Liz Kendall, Labour’s social care spokesman, last night said: ‘We’ve heard of appalling cases where care workers in Norfolk have been told to go to Sheffield and those in Peterborough to Stansted Airport.
‘It’s madness – the Government doesn’t understand how real people’s lives work.’
Labour MP Peter Kyle added: ‘By designing a testing infrastructure that works for Whitehall but isn’t local enough so low income workers without access to transport to use it is a barrier not a solution.’
Vic Rayner, executive director of the NCF, called for a rapid response to solve the problem.
She said: ‘Our data has revealed social care staff are travelling on average 62 miles on a round trip to test centres.
‘A large proportion of them rely on public transport to get about. More needs to be done and practical arrangements made.’